The gift of you being you.

It’s my second most favorite time of year everyone!  Coming in at #2 just after Autumn, it’s….

“2/3 of my children returned to school week!” YEAH!

Sure, I’m happy because there’s a significant reduction in the amount of times I say things like, “you can’t be bored” or “who ate all the ____.”

The primary source of my joy though, is the return of some sort of schedule.  I’m the kind of girl who does well on a schedule, even though I hate being told what to do. (Once a strong-willed child, always a strong-willed child.)

One of my school-year habits is that I wake up earlier than everyone to do luxurious things like:

  • think uninterrupted thoughts
  • have a cup of coffee that hasn’t been microwaved
  • maybe do a sun-salutation or two

It is in these beautiful little hours that I’ve been able to read more of Rachel Macy Stafford’s new book Hands Free Life.

I am so lucky that I’ve had the chance to get a sneak peek.

No one's ever accused me of being good at grammar.

No one’s ever accused me of being good at grammar. True story, spell-check just corrected me when I tried to use the word “grammer.”

Hands Free Life will be released on September 8th and even though I certainly would have pre-ordered it, I’ve come to realize what a life-line some of these chapters have been to me the last few weeks, this morning especially.

Let me be extra honest with you for a minute.

I fail, pretty much every day. On the days I haven’t failed? Probably still thinking about that time I failed the other day.

I’ve always been that way.

Guess what?

Failing LESS is not what is improving for me.

  • My to-do list is just as long.
  • My foot-in-mouth disease is NOT in remission.
  • My patience can still be pretty short.

But I am waking up to the realization that I am supposed to fail everyday.  For whatever reason, the whole Pottery Barn catalog perfection mentality grabbed on to me early and stayed way past closing time.  And what Hands Free Life is beginning to whisper in my ear, is that perfection isn’t the end goal.

The goal is to be gentle, forgiving and accepting along the journey.  That goes for how we treat others, as well as how we treat ourselves.


Many of you are already familiar with Rachel Macy Stafford, or Hands Free Mama as she’s known from her popular blog and previous book Hands Free Mama.  Can I introduce you to Cheryl Wheeler?  Every bit the poet and storyteller that Rachel is, but of the musical variety.

Claim to fame: met her before a show and my friend tried to shake her hand.  Said she was a little superstitious about touching anyone before she played her guitar.  Face palmed ourselves and saw the best show ever!

Claim to fame: met her before a show and my friend tried to shake her hand. Said she was superstitious about touching anyone before playing. Embarrassment was alleviated by an amazing performance.

Cheryl Wheeler is a master of guitar and storytelling, not to mention an incredible sense of humor and a voice like buttah.  Whether you need a good laugh or a good cry, (Potato and Arrow respectively) she’s who you want to listen to. 

As a self-professed music junkie, I get cravings for a certain kind of music.  Does that happen to you?  Sometimes, I’m looking to listen to a CERTAIN something, just as strongly as I might want one of those store-bought pans of brownies that taste like they’re just barely cooked.

This morning I was listening to her song, Driving Home and it was exactly what I was craving. Here’s where it connects to Rachel and her new book. The chorus is:

Slow down what’s the hurry
There’s no rush today
There won’t be too many
Days like today

See, I’ve been worried about how I could share Rachel’s new book in a way that would be WORTHY of it.

Worried that my little review wouldn’t be helpful to such a big author.

Did I have anything to say that could possibly ADD to what she was saying?

I was in a hurry.

SPOILER ALERT: I put things off when I’m overwhelmed, then I’m late because I’ve put them off, I think of grandiose gestures to make up for being late, I get overwhelmed by getting grandiose things done, soooo…I put them off.

I knew I couldn’t let myself go down this familiar path. Instead, I took a cue from Cheryl and slowed down.

I sat quietly. My fingers started to fan the pages.  Lingered on the table of contents.  And as what I can only describe as divine intervention, I decided to read the last chapter.

Out of order!


But there it was, Habit Nine: CHANGE SOMEONE’S STORY.

It’s been an emotional week and I knew this was the chapter to read.  While I was considering myself a rock-star for getting my school aged kids to the right place in clothes that actually reflected the weather, people in my tribe were going through some of the deepest, toughest struggles.

You know what that’s like, don’t you?

When your friend struggles, you share in that struggle.

And for those of us who are “feelers” (raises hand) that tribe expands. My children’s friends.  Their families.  Acquaintances. People I know but don’t know-know.

You know?

So “Change Someone’s Story” it was.  I wanted to know how I could make a little or big difference to those around me who are hurting and here are the three components she shares:

Respond With Empathy

Open Your Arms

Take the First Step

Every chapter in Hands Free Life ends with a “Habit Builder” to strengthen what you just read about.  Not big assignments or to-do’s that will stress you out.  I’ll share the habit builder for this chapter, along with some of the examples:

Habit Builder Number 9: Change Someone’s Story with the Six-Second Challenge.

In 6 seconds you can kiss someone like you mean it.

In 6 seconds you can wait for a little straggler to catch up.

In 6 seconds you can let it go.

In 6 seconds you can cut yourself some slack.

In 6 seconds you can throw away that picture, that pair of pants, that inner bully that keeps you from loving this day, this you.

In 6 seconds you can whisper, “it’s going to be ok.”

I just love the list in its entirety.  It reads like a poem and caused me to take a deep breath.  Instead of looking for a way to fill each pause in my day, I’m going to begin looking for six second challenge worthy things that I can do. And here’s where the gift of you comes in.

Before you can do any of these things, story-changing requires one thing.

BEGS for one thing.

Your presence.

And presence is so freaking hard.

It’s why we spend our spare seconds in the checkout lane looking at Facebook or playing candy crush. (Yes, I still can’t quit that stupid game.  Yes, I know I’m an adult).

Its why staring into your partners eyes for even a few SECONDS requires a will of steel (not EVEN CLOSE to the four minutes of eye contact recommended in psychologist Arthur Aron’s research on creating closeness between two people).

Look into my eyes.

Look into my eyes! Beautiful illustration by Brian Rea.

But this is what’s required of us friends. It is what’s required of us as human beings.

To make eye contact.

To listen.

Be present.


Not the gift of our perfectly filtered Instagram photo. Not fail-free days. Not the Pottery Barn catalog perfect you. Just you.

So practice being present this week, and please come back and tell me what six seconds did for you or for someone you love.

And over the next several weeks, I’m going to share with you other habits from Hands Free Life that are helping me the most.

This is a journey I want to go on together!

I promise I won’t rush it and I promise to just be me.

I promise to be present.

I’m still not going to look into your eyes for four minutes though, sorry ’bout that.



  1. Cindy says:

    Thank you for this reminder. I love those 6 second gifts and the idea of getting rid of Pottery Barn perfect. I struggle with that one, too.

    • totlosophy says:

      Thanks for letting me know I’m not alone! After my husband lost his job several years ago, I started putting the Pottery Barn catalog in the recycle without even opening it, so that I would stop feeding the beast. It’s a habit I’m glad I’ve kept. And I LOVE pottery barn but the catalog triggers way more than, “oh, I need some new fitted sheets.” 😉

    • totlosophy says:

      Thank you so very much. And believe it or not, I used to microwave my coffee several times a day and still end up drinking it room temp. Now, I embrace the crazy and just drink it cold when I have to!

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